front of the Meeting House stand two giant oak trees, known as Quercus
macrocarpa or Bur Oak, but sometimes called "Messy Cup"
because of the irregular fringed cup of their fruit. Many years ago,
John Hershey, a Downingtown nurseryman and a member of our Meeting,
planted these mighty native white oaks, plus one to the west of our
John Hershey was a nut tree nurseryman who, in his time, became a
national authority in the propagation and care of nut trees, not only
for the benefit of humans but also as a basis of feed for livestock.
John and his wife, Betty, came from solid Mennonite stock out in
Paradise, Pennsylvania, in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country.
Sometime in the early 1920s, the Hersheys developed their nursery
business in Downingtown directly across Route 30 from our Meetinghouse.
They planted many varieties of nut trees in the area of what’s now the
road leading back to the present apartment buildings, just east of the
Methodist Church. Some of these trees still remain, but originally
Hershey planted them so thickly, they seemed almost like a jungle.
In the early 1930s, the Depression set in. Because of it and for lack
of students, the Friends' School discontinued operation in our
Schoolhouse about 1932. By then Hershey had joined the Meeting, and
needing a place to live, Meeting made arrangements for he and his wife
to live in the Schoolhouse where he could also have his office. While
the Hersheys occupied the ground floor of the building, Meeting held it’s
First Day School classes in the fireplace room in what’s now our
A lot has changed since John and Betty Hershey lived in our
Schoolhouse, but the Bur Oaks still stand tall in front of our
Meetinghouse as a symbol of the strength of our Meeting.